FlixChatter’s Double Review: SKYFALL

It’s no secret that this is one of the top five 2012 films both Ted and I have been anticipating. Nice to see that the world seems to have been ‘gripped’ by Bond fever, as Skyfall has grossed over $500 million worldwide since it opened in the UK on October 26, and nearly $90 mil in its opening weekend here in the US.

So, with all the buzz and our own feverish excitement over its release, does this movie live up to our expectations? Well, read both Ted and my review below:

Ted’s Review

After a four year absence, Bond is back on the big screen and I think it’s maybe the best Bond film ever. Daniel Craig is back as 007, Sam Mendes stepped in as the man in charge behind the scenes, he brought in his usual team to work on this latest Bond film, including the great cinematographer Roger Deakins and the always excellent Thomas Newman as the new composer.

The film starts out with a spectacular chase scene involving Bond and a new agent played by Naomi Harris, they’re after a hard drive containing the names of MI6 undercover agents all over the world. They failed and Bond is presumed dead. A few months later, MI6 agents are being kill off one by one and M (Judi Dench) is being question by Security Chairman Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), a great addition to franchise in my opinion. Mallory suggested that M should think of retiring because she might lose her step when it comes to the intelligence business. Of course M refused and she wowed to find who’s responsible for these agents being kill off. We then see Bond living in some tropical beach, drinking and sleeping with a beautiful woman. He later learned that other agents are being murder and decided to come back to MI6 and wants to know who’s behind these killings. Since he’s been gone for so long, Bond is out of shape and not as sharp but M sent him out to the field anyway.

I don’t like to go deep into the plot in my review so I’m going to highlight what worked and what didn’t in the film.

Let’s start with what I thought work great in the film:

Daniel Craig and Judi Dench: This is a more personal Bond film and both Craig and Dench did a marvelous job in their respective role. Craig now really owns the Bond character, in this film he’s not the super hero agent we’re used to seeing. He’s a drunk, he gets hurt and he didn’t always save the girl. In an interview, Craig said he really want to bring the character more to reality and so he went and read some of Fleming’s earlier Bond novels. To me he really nailed what Fleming was going for in those novels. Dench played a prominent role in the movie and believe it or not, she was actually the Bond girl in this film. Her performance was the best in the series and I was glad she appeared in the film as much as she has.

Sam Mendes, Roger Deakins and Thomas Newman: When Mendes was hired to direct this film, I was a bit skeptical because he’s never directed an action film before and when a more artsy director took over the franchise, it doesn’t always turned out well. The World Is Not Enough was directed by an artsy director and it’s one of the worst Bond films ever. But I was wrong, Mendes did a great job. Like what Brad Bird did with M:I-Ghost Protocol last year, Mendes decided to bring the franchise back to the old school style while infusing some 21st century action sequences. Speaking of action, Mendes was able to build up a great suspense before showing those awesome action sequences.

I particularly liked the sequence in Shanghai where Bond went after an assassin, the scene was set in a high rise building and the way Mendes staged it was so suspenseful and when Bond finally went mano-a-mano with the assassin, I got goose bumps. I loved that sequence. Since this film marks the 50th anniversary of the franchise, Mendes decided to throw in some homage from the previous Bond flicks. From Oddjob in Goldfinger, Bond jumped on top of an alligator, exploding pen and so on; Bond fanatics will get a kick out seeing those scenes, I know I did.

Of course Mendes can’t do it alone, with his right hand man Roger Deakins doing the shooting, this may be the best looking Bond film ever. Seriously every scene in this film was so gorgeous to look it. The film took place mostly in London and the way Deakins captured the look and feel of that city, I felt like I was there. Also, I always felt London is one of the best cities to capture on films, (NYC is my favorite in case you’re wondering). If you get a chance to see it on the real IMAX screen, I highly recommend you do that. Mendes and Deakins decided to open up the film’s usual aspect ratio of 2.39:1 to 1.90:1 to take advantage of IMAX’s tall screen. It was such a pleasure seeing this gorgeous film on the best format, can’t recommend it enough.

Last but certainly not least is Thomas Newman’s theme, the soundtrack’s more epic and fit the film so well and yes the Bond theme is finally play during the movie not after like the previous two films. Mendes said in an interview that Nolan’s The Dark Knight was a huge influence on this film so some might think the soundtrack kind of similar to that film. In fact if I didn’t know Newman was the composer, I would’ve thought it was Hans Zimmer.

What didn’t work:

Javier Bardem and the Bond girls. My complain with the franchise is that it never has a truly great villain and unfortunately that trend continues. Some critics said Bardem’s Silva is the best Bond villain ever and I strongly disagree with that; sure he’s menacing and probably the most grounded villain in a Bond film; he’s not planning to take over the world or destroy it, he just wants vengeance. But I thought he’s underused and the showdown between him and Bond was kind of anti-climatic. I was hoping for a fist cuff showdown like in From Russia With Love but it never happened.

The Bond girls in this one wasn’t used like in other films. As I mentioned earlier M was basically the Bond girl, so the two lovely ladies weren’t in the film that much. But you can bet Naomie Harris will appear in the Bond franchise in many years to come.

Those are my only two complaints, otherwise it was just a great action film and again I believe it’s one of the best, if not the best Bond film ever. I’ll for sure be seeing it again on the big screen a few more times.

Some people complained that the climatic showdown was too much like Home Alone meets Strawdogs, well it’s a fair comparisons but I’d like to give my personal opinion of that sequence and its title. If you haven’t seen the film, I recommend you don’t read any further because it contains spoilers.

The film’s title refers to Bond’s birthplace and in a way it’s his battleground. To me, it represents a place where M hires a infant James into the secret service and as irony has it , this is the place where it all comes down for a rebirth of 007 and demise of M. You see Casino Royale was a reboot of the franchise and Skyfall is the reboot of 007 himself, when the new M asked Bond near the end of the film if he’s ready, Bond reply with a resounding yes and so we’re now back into the normal Bond template. Is that a good or bad thing? We’ll have to wait and find out what the filmmakers will give us in the upcoming Bond films. If the Bond producers hires another quality director to direct the next one, then I’m sure we’ll get another great Bond film. I know that Chris Nolan and David Fincher are free and I’m sure they can make a great Bond flick. Hey a fan boy can dream right?
– review by Ted S.

4.5 out of 5 reels


Ruth’s Review

Some of the best Bond films start out with an exhilarating opening sequences, and Skyfall follows that tradition. Bond is on a mission in Turkey to recover a stolen hard drive containing a list of nearly all undercover NATO agents in terrorist organizations. Soon Bond and fellow field agent Eve get into a massive car/motorbike/foot chase, wreaking havoc all over the place as Bond often does, before he jumps on top of a moving train. It all seems like a typical 007 action stuff… that is, until the super spy himself actually gets shot and falls into the water. It’s no spoiler as it’s all over the trailers and TV spots, often preceded by Judi Dench’s M shouting to Eve, ‘Take the bloody shot!’

Presumed dead, Bond is free to retire on some island somewhere, but his holiday is short-lived when he learns that MI-6 headquarter has been attacked, both in the physical and cyber world, prompting his return to England. The message in M’s hacked computer repeatedly says ‘Think on your sins,’ which seems to suggest that this attack is a personal one. Just how personal? Well, it’s best for you to find out on your own. Let’s just say that Bond’s loyalty to his boss is tested beyond what he could ever imagine and the mission has become very personal for him, too.

There are tons to appreciate in this film, thanks to a first-rate team starting with the Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes and his team of writers: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan. The sharp script allows for a thrilling action, snappy dialog, and just the right amount of whimsy without resorting to copious one-liners.

I think it’s great that since this year marks the franchise’s 50th anniversary, Skyfall is one of the most personal Bond films ever as it touched upon who he was before he became the secret agent we’ve come to know and love. I always enjoy seeing the more ‘human’ side of our super spy, it certainly makes for a thrilling and also poignant story. Daniel Craig is even more confident in his third outing, but he also has the right amount of vulnerability to balance that grit, which adds more depth to Bond the way Timothy Dalton did with character two decades earlier. Clearly people are much more ready for such an interpretation now.

As we’ve been talking about Bond villains as part of the 007 Chatter series, suffice to say that Raoul Silva will NOT end up in the WORST list. Though the personal vendetta motive of the villain is hardly groundbreaking, it still feel fresh thanks to Javier Bardem‘s performance. Creating a genuine tension between Bond and his villain is no small feat as we’ve seen it so many times before. Yet the encounter between the ever-so-creepy Silva and Bond is quite fascinating, what with the homoerotic intimidation that treads between sinister and amusing.

My favorite part in the film is the relationship between Bond and his boss, M. They’re not always in the best terms as you could tell in their blatantly snarky banters (remember M once called Bond ‘a sexist, misogynist dinosaur!’), but it’s obvious they respect and care for one another. I tell you, it’s the Bond producers’ best casting decision ever to have an acting juggernaut Dame Judi Dench play that role, and Mendes makes the most of her amazing talent. No doubt this is the meatiest role ever written for M in the entire Bond history, you could say she’s the co-star of this film given the large amount of screen time. Ralph Fiennes, Ben Wishaw as Q and Albert Finney makes up the stellar supporting cast, making this the best cast in the James Bond series to date!

Whether this movie will be the best Bond film ever is arguable of course, but it could easily be the most picturesque Bond film ever, thanks to (yet another) Oscar-nominee Roger Deakins. He created one glorious, picture-frame-worthy shot after another, starting with the very first one of Bond’s silhouetted figure entering a building in Turkey. The scenes in China, especially the fight scene in a Shanghai skyscraper with the electronic billboard as a backdrop is breathtakingly gorgeous. The lush scenery in the Scottish Highlands is one of the major highlight as Bond returns to a place from his past.

So, how do the two Bond girls fare? Well, Eve definitely belongs in the BEST Bond girl category. I really like Naomie Harris as the smart and strong field agent. She’s bad ass but still has a feminine and flirty side. She’s a knockout too, especially in that gold dress in the Macau casino. Unfortunately, I’m not too fond of Bérénice Marlohe‘s Sévérine. Yes she is beautiful to be sure and that dress she wears at the casino shows off her killer figure. But her overacting makes me squirm, I think the dialog between her and Bond is the weakest part of the film. Good thing she didn’t have much screen time to drag the movie down further.

Final Thoughts: Well, looks like the ever-so-lucrative 50-year old franchise is going stronger than ever. Skyfall is not just a good Bond film, it’s a good film, period. I think Sam Mendes and co. did a smashing job in creating a 21st century Bond movie that strikes a nice balance between high drama and high octane action. I certainly welcome a more emotional Bond film, and I’m glad Mendes is not afraid to give us that.

So to answer the question whether this film lives up to my already-lofty expectations. The short answer is YES, though I think I still rate Casino Royale as the best one amongst Craig’s Bond films so far.

4.5 out of 5 reels


So what are your thoughts of Skyfall? Did it meet YOUR expectations?